Last week I took a trip down memory lane to see just how well, or as the case may be not well, Rick Spielman fared in his first attempt at free agency as the General Manager of the Minnesota Vikings. That article and the grades can be found by clicking here.
Even more important than free agency, at least for a rebuilding franchise, is the NFL Draft. In 2012 the Vikings made 10 selections and I want to take a look at the first half of those. Here are the individual breakdowns:
1.4 Matt Kalil, LT: One goal of the 2012 offseason was all too obvious to anybody that paid the least bit of attention. Upgrade at the left tackle position, kick Charlie Johnson inside, and keep Christian Ponder healthy for 17 weeks.
As a rookie Matt Kalil has not only impressed, he has dominated in a way that shoots him to the top five of anybody’s rankings of NFL left tackles. Christian Ponder has survived an entire season, in large part because of Kalil’s near-perfect protection, and Kalil has also contributed plenty to Adrian Peterson’s incredible year. Kalil is the type of player, barring major injury, that the Vikings can look forward to sending to the Pro Bowl year after year.
Oh, and they traded back a spot for extra picks just before selecting him.
1.29 Harrison Smith, S: The trade back to number four gave the Vikings some extra firepower for the remainder of the Draft and it didn’t take long for Spielman to cash some of that in and grab Notre Dame’s stud safety Harrison Smith.
Smith was a welcomed sight for Vikings fans that had simply had it with watching mediocre-at-the-very-best play from the team’s safeties ever since Darren Sharper stopped being a good football player.
Smith has added quite the spark to this defense and is already making his mark in Vikings lore with 98 tackles, a sack, 11 broken up passes, three interceptions, two touchdowns, a forced fumble, plenty of fines, and an ejection.
Smith isn’t always perfect, but no safety ever is, especially in a cover-2 defense. Smith could improve his follow through on tackling a bit, and has a few other areas to refine, but the kid is just plain exciting to watch. A bruiser with ball skills was just what this Vikings defense needed to hang with the likes of Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall and [insert any cheese curd receiver here].
This pick has, at least this year, been a major success despite the added cost of trading up. The only argument against this move of any merit is that the Vikings could have drafted cornerback Casey Heyward, who is having a Rookie of the Year type of season for Green Bay, by simply staying put where they were in the second round.